Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem
The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.
Symptoms Of Tethered Cord Syndrome In Children And Adolescents
Tethering of the spinal cord typically occurs around the lumbosacral junction .6 The symptoms and signs usually depend on the underlying cause of the tethered cord and may change with age.
- Infants may have spontaneous leg movement, abnormal reflexes, foot asymmetry, and thinning of muscle mass in the leg .6
- Toddlers may exhibit a delay in reaching the walking milestone or may have an abnormal gait.6
- School-age children may have back and leg pain that is often worsened with bending the spine forward or vigorous physical activity, sensory deficits and weakness in the legs, painless foot burns , and musculoskeletal deformities of the feet and spine, such as clubfoot or scoliosis.6
- Adolescents typically experience similar symptoms and signs as school-age children with increased sensory deficits, such as bowel and bladder dysfunction and weakness.6
Other common lower back signs of tethered cord syndrome may include pink- or red-colored birthmarks , swollen fatty nodules , and deviation of the gluteal crease, among others.6
Diagnosis Of Back Pain In Teens
Diagnosis of teenage back pain is done by taking the medical history, physical examination of the back, imaging and laboratory tests.
The results from all these diagnostic tests will allow the doctor to know the exact cause and extent of the back pain in the teenager or the child which will help in providing a proper treatment of the patient.
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Symptoms Of Muscular Back Pain In Children And Adolescents
Classic symptoms and signs of muscular back pain in children and teens typically include1:
- Pain exacerbated by activity or movement
- Pain exacerbated by prolonged sitting or standing
- Pain and tenderness in the muscles on the right and/or left sides of the spineand not the spine itself
Muscular back pain may be acute, sharp, and stabbing or chronic, dull, and achy depending on the degree of muscle injury.
Backpacks And Back Pain
There is some evidence to suggest that heavy backpacks may cause back pain in children.
- Habitually carrying heavy backpacks over one shoulder may cause the muscles in the area to strain in order to compensate for the uneven weight, resulting in localized or one-sided pain in the shoulder and upper back.4
- Heavy backpacks may strain the neck muscles, contributing to or worsening existing back pain, shoulder pain, and arm pain.4
- Improperly loading a backpack and stooping forward while walking can distribute weight unevenly within the bag, causing strain on the back muscles.4
The American Academy of Pediatricsâ most recent non-evidence-based guidelines recommend that the optimal weight of a childâs backpack may be restricted to 10% to 20% of the child’s body weight.1 Certainly if a child or teen complains about back pain after carrying their backpack, it is reasonable to try reducing the weight of the backpack, use a rolling pack, or explore other remedies.
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Will My Child Need Surgery
Surgery is typically reserved for children with pain that doesnt go away even after many months of trying other options.
Children with severe slips that lead to loss of spinal alignment may need surgery as well.
Even with treatment, the symptoms of a stress fracture may last into adolescence and young adulthood.
- Confusion, behavior changes
An Opportunity For Change
“It’s also one of the areas that we have the biggest opportunity to change the way we care for patients,” Dr. Sowa explained. One of those opportunities is around identifying contributors to back pain.
“The findings on traditional imaging such as X-rays and MRIs often have a very poor correlation with patient symptoms,” Dr. Sowa explains. She says that many people who might have physical damage to their low back may not experience any symptoms. On the other hand, some individuals might experience a great deal of low back pain but could have little visible damage.
Through her work supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Dr. Sowa and her collaborators study better ways to treat people based on their individual symptoms and medical history. This includes looking at factors like genetics, stress, lifestyle, behaviors, and activity levels.
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What Are Causes Of Pediatric Back Pain
There are many causes of back pain in children and teens, including:
- Muscle weakness and stiffness
- Tight hamstrings and weak core muscles
- Unhealthy weight or obesity
- Pain from overuse, such as repetitive exercise or activities that put strain on the back
- Pain from sports, dance or other physical activities
Back Pain Caused By A Growth Spurt
If youve noticed that your child seems to be getting taller each day, but now theyve started to complain about spinal discomfort, should you just caulk it up to their growth spurt, or should you consult a physician? While its certainly possible that your childs growth spurt is playing a role in their spinal discomfort, growing pains in and of themselves do not typically affect the spinal region. In other words, a period of rapid growth may have caused a mechanical issue in their spine, like a shifted spinal disc or vertebral segment misalignment. Dont just assume that their back pain is something that will go away once their growth spurt is over. Instead, consider having them examined by a spine specialist.
Now, thats not to say that back pain that develops during a period of rapid growth is always a sign of a significant underlying spinal issue. As we mentioned above, the growth spurt could have a role in the onset of this pain. For example, the growth spurt can lead to poor posture habits. If their growth spurt is uncomfortable, a child may slouch or lean forward when in a seated position, and over time this can put excess stress on their cervical or lumbar spine.
Back pain that seems to develop during a growth spurt can also come about without any real connection to the rapid bone development. If your child is active, its very possible that their discomfort is caused by a muscle spasm or strain.
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Why Choose Our Spine Program For Treatment Of Your Child’s Back Pain
The Spine Program at Children’s Colorado evaluates and treats infants, children, adolescents and young adults with all types of spinal conditions and injuries, ranging from back pain to complex neuromuscular disease and trauma.
Our pediatric spine care team is among the most knowledgeable in the country. For the most basic to the most complex spinal conditions, our goal is to always provide the safest, most effective treatments.
Back Pain And Sickness
Back pain is more common than you might imagine if youre working to get over a cold, and there are a number of reasons why that can be the case. Heres a look at some of the reasons why back pain can present alongside a cold.
The good news is that when inflammation is the root cause of your back pain, treating the sickness typically leads to a resolution of the back issue. Focus on treating the flu or the infection instead of your spinal symptoms, and youll have more luck quelling your discomfort. If pain is the result of a pulled muscle caused by a coughing fit, taking care of your sickness can help to calm a cough and put less strain on the muscles, as can rest and activity modification. Again, symptoms usually resolve within a couple days of rest and protection so long as the sickness is also being treated.
So while you likely wont need to visit a spine specialist to help with your back pain if youre sick with the flu, if you believe your back issue is tied to a different problem in your spine, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at 430-3800.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor:
- Do back packs cause back pain?
- Are certain sports associated with back injury?
- Are there exercises my child can do to help the back pain?
- Will my child need a brace?
- Will my child need an X-ray or MRI?
- Will my child need surgery?
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Could A Health Condition I Have Be To Blame
Lower back pain can also be caused by other things that are going on in your body.
Pregnancy: All that weight out front can put a real strain on your back.
Tumors: They usually donât start in the back, but are part of the spread of a cancer in the spine that started somewhere else in your body.
Infections: Osteomyelitis, discitis, and septic sacroiliitis are uncommon infections that affect the bones, discs, and joints of the spine. Any one of these can cause pain in your lower back. Kidney infections can also cause your back to feel the brunt.
Other issues: Low back pain can also happen because of things like:
- Endometriosis, a buildup of uterine tissue outside the uterus
- Fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread muscle pain
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Arthritis Of The Spine
Arthritis of the spine the slow degeneration of the spinal joints is the most frequent cause of lower back pain. All of us experience wear and tear as we age, and it is normal for your lower back to start acting up as you get older. As the cartilage breaks down between the spinal joints, surrounding tissues may become inflamed. The inflammation and the thinning of cartilage increase friction in the joints, which may cause pain in the lower back.
When To Call A Doctor
Consult your doctor if you have back pain thats intense, worrisome, or that doesnt go away with self-care measures. Its also important to call your doctor if your lower back pain is making it hard for you to go about your daily activities.
Most cases of lower back pain on the right side are not medical emergencies. However, dont hesitate to get immediate medical help if you experience back pain thats accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- loss of bladder or bowel function
- sudden, severe pain
- weakness or loss of sensation in your lower body
- pain accompanied by fever, clammy skin, a rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, or any other concerning symptoms
The appropriate treatment for lower back pain emergencies depends on the cause. If the source of the pain isnt obvious, you may need one or more of the following screenings to determine the right course of action:
- an MRI to check your spinal cord, nerve roots, and other soft tissue
- an X-ray to look at your spine and other joints for signs of fracture or other concerns
- blood tests to check for markers of inflammation
If nerve or muscle problems are the cause of lower back on the right, epidural injections of corticosteroids may be necessary if the pain and loss of mobility and function are severe.
If appendicitis is diagnosed and it cant be managed by antibiotics, then emergency surgery to remove the appendix may be necessary.
- nerve compression in your spine
- disc degeneration
- an abdominal aortic aneurysm
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Causes For Back Pain In Young Adults
What Causes Back Pain in Young Adults?
Low back pain is not often considered to be a potential problem among young adults. So when back pain strikes at a young age, it comes as a surprise and a source of confusion as to the cause. In our youth, we may think we are indestructible, but it is not uncommon for back pain to appear in our twenties and thirties.
Most often, back pain experienced at a young age is the result of overly strenuous exercising, a job that requires lifting objects that are too heavy, or a sudden awkward movement such as bending over to pick up a toddler. This type of back pain is usually due to Back Strain.
What Is a Back Strain?
Back Strain can be extremely painful and will unexpectedly put your life on hold. Treatment can consist of standard practices such as alternating ice and heat on the areas of injury, taking anti-inflammatories and doing non-rigorous, specific stretches or lower back relaxation techniques.
A strain is a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon, which is a fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones. A Back Strain is often signified by a dull ache in the back when walking or standing. There may also be a feeling of stiffness in your back when bending, feeling sore in specific areas that are also tender to the touch, or pain in a localized area that does not mimic sciatica, which causes radiating pain in the legs.
Juvenile Degenerative Disc Disease
Back Pain Injury
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Treating Back Pain During A Growth Spurt
So how can you ensure that you are doing right by your child and getting them the care they need if they are dealing with back pain during a period of rapid growth? For starters, have a conversation with your child about their back pain. Does it get worse at certain parts of the day? Has it been getting better or becoming more frequent? Has it affected any areas of their life, like athletics or while attempting to fall asleep? This should help give you a better idea if its something that should be examined by a professional.
If youre still unsure, consider monitoring their pain over the next few days to see if symptoms improve. Have them cut back on laborious physical activity and see if their symptoms begin to resolve. Also, talk to them about their posture and how poor posture habits can contribute to pain, even in young individuals. If their pain seems to get better over the next few days, you can have them begin to take on more physical activity until they are pain free.
However, if pain persists or gets worse, its in your best interest to have your child examined by a spine specialist like Dr. Sinicropi. Theyll conduct a physical exam, ask your child about their symptoms and take any necessary images in order to get to the root of their back pain. Once a diagnosis has been made, hell set your child up with a personalized care plan to help treat their back pain.
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Could Lower Back Pain Be Kidney Pain
It absolutely can. Kidneys are located on the back side of your body and kidney pain can sometimes feel like back pain. The only true way to tell the difference is to visit a doctor who can conduct a thorough examination.
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Where You Take Them Matters
Request an appointment with the only nationally ranked orthopedic program for kids and teens in Georgia, and well help you understand your childs diagnosis and create a comprehensive treatment plan.
There are multiple factors a pediatrician should consider when determining if your child needs to be referred to a pediatric spine specialist. These may include:
- Back pain resulting in stiffness of the spine and associated with a fever, general discomfort, uneasiness or pain, or a poor appetite
- Chronic pain that lasts longer than six weeks
- Back pain associated with leg pain
- Back pain that interferes with your childs sleep
- Back pain that prevents your child from participating in activities
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Symptoms Of Spinal Tumors And Cancer In Children And Adolescents
Back pain at night that wakes the child from sleep is the hallmark of a spinal tumor. It must, however, be understood that not all children who wake up from sleep due to pain have a spinal tumor. Night-time back pain is especially rare in children below 5 years of age, and this symptom warrants immediate medical attention.1
Spinal tumors and cancers also cause generalized, unexplained weight loss loss of appetite and a general feeling of malaise.
What Back Pain Treatments Are Most Commonly Used For Children And Adolescents
The most common treatments are geared towards symptomatic relief, explains Dr. Chaudhary. Back pain in children is usually short-lived and can be treated through the use of ice, rest, and over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to alleviate their pain. Research suggests that a daily exercise program can play a role in reducing your childs back pain. Sometimes activity modification or a brace may be utilized, says Dr. Chaudhary.
If your child is experiencing unrelenting back pain, they may be referred to a specialist such as a physical therapist who can provide advice on any exercises and lifestyle changes that will help reduce the pain. Complementary therapies such as massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture may enhance your childs healing process and help eliminate the pain faster, too.
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